RESIDENT EVIL 7 REVIEW
By Matthew Dreany
In the first iteration of Resident Evil, you had to carefully maneuver your way out of a creepy mansion using only your intelligence, a limited amount of ammunition, and the occasional help of an herb that looked suspiciously like weed. After carefully solving complex puzzles, being agile enough to dodge zombies, and typing reports of your progress, you may have been lucky enough to escape the mansion alive. More often than not, you probably fell to the floor after one bite too many, finally succumbing to the T-Virus. The point of the game was to make you feel helpless and realize you would probably be best suited brushing up on your cognitive abilities before the inevitable zombie apocalypse. Fast forward to the 4th game, where you save the president’s daughter and shoot down a helicopter with a rocket launcher. You finish the game by speeding away on a conveniently-placed jet ski.
It’s no question that much like a victim of the T-Virus, the Resident Evil franchise mutated into something monstrously unfamiliar and ridiculous. But think of it from Albert Wesker’s point of view: The original formula for Resident Evil was becoming weak and needed to evolve. While a vocal minority will always crave the classic survival horror genre, Capcom is above all else a business. The hand of capitalism and sales are the hand of God to software developers and publishers. Some companies prefer quality over quantity. Capcom is not one of those companies. In a five year span, The Fatal Frame series by Tecmo released 3 unique, original, and haunting games that defined and redefined the survival horror genre. In a 5 year span, Capcom released essentially the same Street Fighter game 5 different times and made a boatload of money in the process. The Result was that Fatal Frame’s popularity essentially died out over a decade ago, while Street Fighter V doesn’t even have to be a complete game to sell like crazy.
Now let’s get into the numbers: Resident Evil 1 sold about 5 million units over 3 separate releases. Resident Evil 2 Sold nearly 6 million units over 2 separate releases just on the ps1. But oversaturation of the genre caused fatigue. The 3rd Resident evil game, Nemesis, sold a measly 3 million units worldwide. This was a turning point for Capcom. Do they stay true to their roots or die trying? Do they get a needle full of a strange substance, inject it and become something completely different? Well, if you know Capcom, you know which direction they’d take. And because of this seemingly heartless move that everyone ridicules them for, Resident Evil 4 sold nearly 7 million units. Though it seems everyone claims the series is getting worse and worse, the sales are getting better. The widely-panned Resident Evil 5 moved over 8 million units, with the hated Resident Evil 6 moving nearly the same amount of units. Despite this success, Capcom had alienated a large chunk of it’s original following. Many fans of the first three games seemed to resent players that grew up only knowing Resident Evil as an over the shoulder shoot ‘em up game.
Fast forward to 2016. Though Resident Evil 6 was a success, it sold less than the 5th game. Capcom realized if they stayed with their zombie shooter formula, they’d have another Nemesis/Code Veronica situation on their hands. The series must change once again. It must take the shape of what is popular now. Luckily for Classic RE fans, the trend now is players wanting to scare the ever-loving shit out of themselves with hyper-realistic games. The trend of Outlast and (don’t hate me for mentioning this game) Five Nights at Freddy’s seems to be a modern version of the survival horror genre. While some may find these games gimmicky and cheap, there is no denying their success. Five Nights at Freddy’s at its peak was grossing over $13,000 dollars a day despite nearly no console support. Capcom saw this boom of Neo-Survival Horror games as a path to win back their original fans as well as turn a profit. The result: Resident Evil 7 has sold nearly 3 Million units in the first month. It will take a few months, maybe a year to see how it stacks up against prior installments, but it seems Capcom has once again made the correct financial decision for their brand. But the true question remains….. IS IT ANY GOOD?
If you are like me, and have stood by Resident Evil from the beginning. You do not need to read this review. You have already played the game, most likely beaten it, and possibly even completed all of the Trophies or Achievements for the game. But if you have only played 1 or 2 games in the series, you may want to know if this game is worth your time. In a word: “Probably,” but it’s obviously more complicated than a one word answer.
Resident Evil has never been an incredibly dense franchise in terms of story. There are zombies, an evil corporation, save points, and characters that put you in the shoes of Ellen Ripley if she were in a zombie apocalypse. The story is vast if you read all of the letters, but in terms of what you are actually seeing in cutscenes, it’s all pretty straightforward. In Resident Evil 7 Your character Ethan gets a cryptic video from his wife before her disappearance of three years. While most would assume their wife simply ran off to Spain with some dude named Rodrigo, Ethan is dedicated. After three years, he tracks her down in a creepy mansion in Louisiana.
Ethan is not a member of the BSAA or S.T.A.R.S., he’s not Leon Kennedy’s little brother or Jill Valentine’s ex. He’s just some dude. This is the first problem many have with this game. It’s often accused with being a completely unrelated horror game with the Resident Evil slapped onto it. My question is “”Who cares?” So many people hated Resident Evil 6, which had Leon, Chris, Ada, and the son of Albert Wesker. Many asked for a departure from 4-6. What better departure than a completely new game that doesn’t play on our nostalgia? Yes, there is still a virus. Yes there is still limited ammo, puzzles, a weird door that you have to put sculptures into to open, and even a surprise appearance from a surprise Resident Evil Hall-of-Famer, but the game is something most of us at least claimed we wanted. Without spoiling too much, you try to find your wife and end up meeting a family of Deliverance mutants and a bunch of moldy monsters in the process.
The Baker family consists of:
Jack, proud Mitt Romney voter and Patriarch. Folks call him whiskers because he’s said to have nine lives.
Marguerite, a lousy cook with a scary bug vagina and the most shrill voice in game history.
Lucas, a combination of that one kid in class that used to play with dead rodents and that other kid in class that was really smart and really angry.
Zoe, that annoying girl you used to date that literally never stops calling you.
Eveline. Just an old Grandma lady that doesn’t talk and obviously has no importance to the plot at all. She’s just a creepy old lady that just sits there and does nothing. She definitely won’t be part of a later plot point. I promise!
Molded. The “Zombies” of Resident Evil 7. They help the Bakers with their yardwork, taxes, and child-rearing.
While the game is different, the formula is roughly the same as the first three games. You are an outsider learning about these mutations, eventually you learn the horrible truth and have to get the hell out of there! The only real plot twist is a decision you must make at the end. This marks the return of another survival horror staple: Multiple endings.
Visually, I found Resident Evil 7 to be about average. It’s not breathtaking. It’s bleak and at times a little awkward visually. You might cringe at one of the later bosses, but it’s well done in terms of shadow effects. It’s a game with an intentionally bland color palette, but it looks like a game that came out this year, which is more than I can say about a number of Triple-A titles released in the last year. The best part of the game visually are the VHS tapes. While they end up just leading to actual gameplay, it gives the game a sense of voyeuristic creepiness that I enjoyed.
Lucas’s party room is fun to look at, but a lot of the game is plain and dark, which does add to the plot, but doesn’t add to its appeal if you are a player that values visuals above all else. The audio for the game is superb. Lots of creepy ambient noise and effective jumpscares. Many times you won’t know if a mutant is coming for you or if it’s just a bobblehead. Perhaps Jack Baker is coming back to life for the 20th time! Oh wait, no. It’s just the bones of a bird corpse rattling against a fence.
WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THE GAME:
There were a lot of nice original touches to the game. And by original, I mean for the franchise: The VHS tapes, Shadow Puzzles, Boss Fights, and Collectibles really make the game something to experience at least once. If you have a Playstation VR Headset, it is beyond necessary to own this game (unless you’re some kind of wuss or something). The departure from the classic plot and characters was nice, but hopefully Capcom never does it again. As enjoyable as Resident Evil 7 was, none of the characters could stand out in any other Resident Evil game outside of a cameo or reference. But in terms of the game itself, the Baker family are a nice touch. The Texas Chainsaw/Deliverance vibe of the Baker Family serves as a nice break from the typical Survival Horror villain. It may not be the most difficult Resident Evil game (at least on the normal setting), but It is definitely the scariest since the remake of the original. The game, like all Resident Evil games in my opinion) has high replay value and you’ll most likely beat it more than once. Most importantly, it gives the classic fans of the franchise hope that maybe their favorite little franchise isn’t dead in the water just yet. The success of this game promises at least an 8th game, and I think more people will be interested to see where the franchise goes next.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE ABOUT THE GAME:
Holy shit, is it short! You could beat it for the first time in one night. This is the main thing keeping it from being worth full-price. If it didn’t have such high replay value, I’d consider it an incomplete game. Also, I couldn’t help being disappointed by the Molded. Yes, there are different forms, but I wanted more variety. Not to sound prejudiced against those with Molded heritage, but they all sort of looked the same. Aside from these Molded and the Bakers, the only other thing for you to kill are bugs and moths. Call me high maintenance for wanting a Licker or Chainsaw Executioner, but I grew tired of the Molded by my third playthough. My third and final complaint is the lack of unlockables. Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of unlockables that makes the game worth replaying. But most of these are weapons and effects. The fact that this is a first person game means that there are no alternate costumes. No way I could play as a giant piece of tofu. These are the things I truly miss about the other Resident Evil games. As much as I did enjoy the game, is it better than the first 3? No. Is it better than 4? No. Is it better than 5 or 6? Possibly. Any way you slice it, Resident Evil 7 will fall in the bottom half of franchise releases and that’s a problem for me. More than anything else, Resident Evil 7 serves as a solid game. With that being said, wake me when they decide to Remake Resident Evil 2.
Watch the Nerd Confessions crew play through some of the very beginning of the story below: